Episode 21: How One Pet Lover Took Her Passion For Pets and United An Entire State with Woofalong

Darcy Graham, creator of WOOFALONG.COM

Darcy Graham, creator of WOOFALONG.COM

In this episode of “Bella In Your Business”, Bella talks with Darcy Graham,  creator of WOOFALONG.com. The site, which shows you the dog-friendly restaurants, stores, parks, trails and events in Colorado, was launched earlier this year and is already looking to expand.

Bella and Darcy discuss:

  • The frustration that was the impetus for the site.
  • How Darcy compiled the list of locations.
  • What types of publicity Darcy has managed to get for the site already and how she did it.
  • The engagements her site has gathered so far and how she has gotten it to grow.
  • Her extensive use of social media.
  • What she has planned for the upcoming version 2 of the site.
  • The plans for expansion to other cities.
  • The potential opportunities on WOOFALONG.COM for business owners.

You can find more information about WOOFALONG.COM at, where else, http://www.woofalong.com.

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Katrina Kadyszewski

Episode 20: Interview with a Small Business State Auditor

Katrina KadyszewskiIn this episode of “Bella In Your Business”, Bella talks with Katrina Kadyszewski, a former state auditor with the State of Connecticut.  

Katrina has over 16 years experience working in a variety of financial positions. She started in the brokerage industry with a Series 7, 63 and 65 and life and health license, and then transitioned to audit work for the CT Department of Revenue Services before leaving to support small businesses in their efforts to get organized for expansion.

Katrina spent 3 of her almost 8 years with the CT Dept. of Revenue Services in the Business & Employment Tax Audit Unit, focused primarily on payroll tax issues. The last 5 years she worked as a Corporation Tax auditor, traveling across the US auditing largely Fortune 500 companies.

Bella and Katrina first discuss a big controversy in the pet sitting industry which is misclassification of employees as either independent contractors or employees.  Katrina outlines some key indicators that auditors look for in making that determination:

  • Is there an actual contract between you and the contractor?
  • Are your payments to them regular in nature?
  • How much control do you have over them with regards to work hours, uniform, training, etc.?
  • Do they offer the same services to other companies through their own business?
  • Are you providing them all the tools, training and supplies they need?
  • Basically, consider how loose is the relationship?

They also discuss why they think business owners are so apprehensive about audits, what documents a business owner should have at their disposal if they are being audited, and whether business owners should take their lawyer and accountant to the  audit. Katrina also gives some insight into what triggers an audit.

Some resources they discuss are the IRS’s  20-factor test to help you determine employee or independent contractor, and amnesty programs that exist to help encourage to make the right switch.

Have you ever been audited? Want to hear about pet sitters who have been audited? I have interviewed a handful and reported about it all here.

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Episode 19: A Look Back at How A Pet Sitting Business Started & Grew with Kristie Glazer

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In this episode of “Bella In Your Business”, Bella talks with Kristie Glazer from Philly Pet Care, a family-owned pet-sitting and dog-walking company in Philadelphia. Kristie talks about how she got started and what changes she made that really helped her business grow.

After graduating college, Kristie and her husband moved to Philadelphia which is near where she grew up in South Jersey.  She was a teacher for a little while and then a sales rep for a shipping company. But she wasn’t happy.  She sat down and thought about what would make her happy….the answer….dogs!  She figured she lived in a city now and people probably needed dog walkers. Before her husband got home that day from his job as a chef, she had a full business plan worked out.  She told him she planned to quit her job and start this business. He told her to go ahead and do it!

{Don’t you just love that?}

So Kristie did it. She started a website. She started cold calling and giving people her card.  She would take any job that came along (which she says in retrospect is a mistake many new business owners make). She did start  to grow the business though, which at the time was called “Personal Pet Care by Kristie”, and continued on for four years adding clients as she went.

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Bella notes that having that moral support from our loved ones really can help catapult our businesses from the start. Maybe not necessarily our business numbers, but it certainly helps us with our tenacity.

Kristie continued by saying that when she first started the business, the ironic thing was that they lived in an apartment where they could not even have pets. So they naturally had to refuse requests for overnights or doggie daycare.  But they eventually moved to a place where they could have pets and started offering both of those services.The business got so busy that they moved to their own home and Dave quit his job as a chef and joined the business!

Kristie said they had some major bumps in the road along the way. In fact, she wishes in retrospect that they had had a “team” (lawyers and accountants) early on as it may have helped them avoid some of the roughest bumps.

One bump, she points out, was a failure to secure all the licenses needed to board dogs in their home. It led to a neighbor calling Licensing and Inspections on them resulting in them having to cease doing the boarding for two years while they worked out all the necessary issues (including getting their home zoned to be a kennel).  

Kristie talked about a point in time when they were working constantly in the business. It was just her and Dave and trying to juggle the business and their three year old son got to be too much.  She came across Bella and Jump Consulting and as a result made some changes.  They rebranded to “Philly Pet Care”.  They revamped  their website and added professional photos and higher quality business cards.

They raised their rates, which caused many customers to go away, but with the higher rates they still made that money back. They cut out the doggie daycare which Kristie said drove her nuts anyway. They made those changes four years ago and Kristie said doing all that gave them back their sanity and the business has been humming along smoothly every since.

Bella says what she is hearing is that they now have a clean system and process and that their business works for them and not them working for the business. Bella paints the analogy of the bow and arrow.  She said that, at that time, Kristie and Dave were like a bow that needs to get pulled back a little bit so that it can get released and send that arrow soaring forward. But notes that it really stinks when you are going through it.

Kristie agreed. She says it is difficult and a lot of work but it is so worth it in the end. She notes that you have to grow though, because if you don’t grow your business will fail.

Bella then asks Kristie about the future of Philly Pet Care.

Kristie says they are still doing the dog walking services in Center City (Philadelphia). They do still do overnights, but only for dogs they have a walking relationship with.  Dave and she hope to remove themselves more and more from the business. Not remove themselves completely because she and Dave like to make sure they personally know each and every client. In fact, she believes that is what really helps set them apart. They have two employees now but hope to have more in the future so they can have more time off.

Kristie also said they are starting to plan for retirement. They are at a point with their business where they are making enough money to really start saving for the future. So that, maybe in 10 years or so, they could be in some form of retirement. But she notes that she doesn’t really see herself ever completely letting go or selling the business.  She has even pictured their son ultimately being the owner of Philly Pet Care.

Bella compares a successful small business to having built your own beautiful home.  You can live in it until the day you die. You build yourself a quality life with the luxury of having options.

Bella wraps the episode by telling  Kristie how proud she is of everything Kristie and Dave have accomplished.

You can find out more about Philly Pet Care and Kristie and Dave at http://www.MyPhillyPetCare.com or to hear about the rebranding experience Kristie had with Bella a few years ago, you can watch the video here.

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Episode 18: How to Get More Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Clients

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In this episode of “Bella In Your Business”, Bella is joined once again by Kate McQuillan from PawsomeMedia. They discuss the timeless question they always get, “How do I get more pet sitting and dog walking clients?”

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List All The Services You Offer On Your Website:


In order to get more pet sitting and dog walking clients, Bella notes that people search for many different terms. For instance, she says that  if you are dog groomer and you want to groom small dogs or even cats, make sure you list that. Someone looking to get a cat groomed likely won’t search for a dog groomer first. Make sure you are putting all the services you offer, along with descriptions, on your website. Kate notes you should really review your website periodically and make sure what you want out there is very clear.

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Promote Yourself On Facebook:

Kate mentions that people often get caught up sharing pet pics, memes and news, but should not forget to put out something everyday about what you do. Images, articles you have written and tips are all good ways to do that. Also, make sure you have filled out all the about sections in Facebook, especially the contact information. Also make  sure your banner clearly says what you do. Facebook pages get Googled and so having all of that information in there may actually help you show up more often in Google searches. For those who feel such promotion is too “salesy” Bella recommends you check out “Gary V” (Gary Vaynerchuk ) who has a book called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to tell your story in a noisy social world. He writes that it is about giving value, value, value, and then a sale. Bella says it’s ok to keep sharing valuable items, but don’t forget the “right hook”!

 

Blog About What You Do:

 

Bella says to blog and talk about what you do. Discuss things like “How much does dog grooming cost?”, “Should I get my cat groomed?”, “How do I train my dog?”.  She says to take every question people ask you, use the exact question as the title of your blog post, and then answer it. She says it’s not only good for SEO (getting higher placement  in Google results), but also gives you an “arsenal” to use when people call with questions. Ask them for their email address and send them the blog post that answers that question. Kate points out that you also need to SHARE your blog post (see tip #2)! And don’t forget to reshare things you wrote months and years ago.  Keep sharing it for those who may not have seen it the first time. And revisit them periodically to “tidy” them up and make them more current.

 

 

Make Free Downloads For Your Site:

Kate suggests that you offer things on your site like free EBooks you create or checklists (like one on things to do before your next vacation), cleaning tips, etc. It doesn’t always have to be about the services you offer, just things that are useful to your customers.

 

 

Create and use “Bark Cards”

When you are out performing mobile services (grooming, pet sitting, dog walking) and you (dog) hear barking at a neighbor’s house, your worker can leave one of these bark cards. Bark cards are small postcards with a picture of a barking dog you get made up that say “BARK, BARK, BARK, BARK, BARK”. On the back leave the top half blank and on the bottom put your branding, list of services, and contact info. In the blank area, take a pen and write something like. “I think I heard a small dog and they were saying ‘Come groom me! Come groom me!’.  I was in the neighborhood and if you call me for more information I would like to offer you….” Bella says these cards are shocking and attention grabbing. They also target your demographic. Personalization in key with these cards.

 

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Email Marketing:

Kate said to make better use of the email addresses you have collected through newsletter sign ups, or people opting in to your free downloads. Send information periodically to ensure people remember who you are and what you offer.  Bella suggests it could be a “drip campaign” where you have a series of say 5 emails go out over a period of time or it could be a short periodic newsletter.  Kate notes that email is important because not everybody is on Facebook or checking out your website, but they may likely be checking email.

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Talk To Vets

Bella says a lot of pet business owners just walk into a vet’s office, drop their cards and leave.  More than likely the cards get dropped in the trash. So Bella recommends that you build a relationship with the vet’s office manager. People rarely ask the vet about pet sitting or grooming services, but they do ask the front office staff or call in with that kind of question.

 

 

Start A Facebook Group:

Kate says that you start a private Facebook group not to sell services but to allow customers and members of the group to get to know you personally.  Members get to know each other, build relationships, talk about pets, etc., and build a good community.

 

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Start A Dog Walking Club!

Bella says that by starting these clubs you will have a micro area of people all interested in the same thing. Do it with your existing customers to build up brand loyalty or expose them to other services you offer. You can encourage them to bring a friend. You could start one at an apartment complex and have the complex promote the club as an activity. Kate suggests you could combine that with the private Facebook group as well.

 

 

Create Competition

 

Kate recommends that you create competition events as they are a good way to get new clients. But do it right! Don’t just do a like and share campaign. Really plan it out.  Kate has more information about doing so in her online marketing academy which Bella says is awesome!

 

Listen To The Full Podcast Below and Don’t Forget To Subscribe!

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Episode 17: Should Pet Sitters Still Offer Overnights If They Have To Pay Per Hour?

In this episode of “Bella In Your Business”, Bella discusses whether you should still offer overnights if you have to pay per hour? This is a hot topic because during this election year many are talking about raising the minimum wage, in some places as high as $15/hour.  In California, not only is the minimum wage being raised but they are mandating sick days and other things which are really going to cost businesses more and more money.

 

Education is Key to This Decision!

Bella emphasizes that you really need to educate yourself on the legislation in your particular state, what risk that implies for your  business, and what it will cost your business to comply. She says she really wants you to focus on the right team members (bookkeeper, CPA, lawyer) and to reach out to your state’s Department of Labor. Learn as much as you can and then make your own educated decision. Don’t listen to everyone on Facebook or your competitors!  Just because someone else elects to take one action doesn’t mean it’s the right one.

So, should you still offer overnights?  The easy answer for some will be no because they figure if they have to pay someone $15/hour for 8-10 hours, they would have to charge at least $200 for an overnight and they believe their clients would never pay that.  Bella points out, that could mean you are automatically giving up (what is on average) 20% of your revenue. In short, she recommends that you still offer overnights even if you have to pay per hour.

Put it on your website (with or without the price) and make sure you price it according to the 30/30/40 rule (30% for the business, 30% for you, and 40% for wages). Just be aware of what happens when you get to 40 hours (another great question to ask your state’s Department of Labor).

Remember, you don’t get to decide what is too expensive. Your clients do.  If a client does tell you it is too much, simply explain why it is that high.  Then offer them a less expensive alternative like 3 visits a day.  Let them know that it will probably be alright but if they feel that still isn’t enough then they could try the overnight option.

 

How To Sell Overnights:

Bella points out that if you don’t at least offer the option then visitors coming to your site looking for that option will “bounce” over to another service’s site.  Leave it on there. Keep them on your site. Engage them in a conversation giving them the reasoning and statistics and let them make the decision.

Another question to ask your state’s Department of Labor is whether or not you are exempt from the minimum wage due to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which states that people who make less than $500,000 don’t have to adhere to it.

Add More Value:

You could also consider additional value for these overnights like perhaps sending video and photos. You might include things like taking out the trash and/or sorting the mail. Add value to the overnights and make them exclusive benefits. Any of these additional values can help make a client feel better about spending the money.

Bella points out that in reality most pets are perfectly fine sleeping by themselves and that the real benefit offered in overnights is making the client feel less guilty about leaving their precious pet.  So let’s appeal to them and keep offering this service. Because if you don’t you have no idea just how much money you might be leaving on the table and walking away.

 

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Episode 16: Getting Rid of Toxic Relationships

Bella In Your Business

 

In this episode of “Bella In Your Business”, Bella discusses getting rid of “bad apples” otherwise known as bad relationships.  At some point in your personal or professional life you have had that person who is a vampire of your time or energy.  And they can be very influential in your life.

You need to constantly take inventory because it is said you are the sum of the 5 closest people in your life. Bella says she sees a lot of pet business owners not “trimming the fat”  of these toxic relationships when it is really necessary and they end up with “tummy aches”.

Bella Has Dealt With Bad Apples…

Bella confesses that she has had to deal with “bad apples” over the years.  She reminds us that some “bad apples” may not have started that way.  Life can change people.  And sometimes it is even harder to get rid of someone if your relationship with them started out great.

Consequences To Keeping Negative People Around:

There are many negative things that can result from keeping “bad apples” in your company.  For one, it could put you in a bad mood and that might spill out in the next conversation you have with a client or another employee.  You may be disappointed in yourself because you know that you are being walked all over.  Or you might feel stressed or scared over what retaliation might happen if you do dissolve or walk away from that relationship.

These types of toxic relationships are like a disease.  They can continue to grow and take over more and more of your life and spoil a lot of things.  We need to protect ourselves, our business, and our employees.

 

Are YOU The Bad Apple?

Of course, it doesn’t always have to be a bad worker.  Sometimes YOU can be the “bad apple” as sometimes it is a bad boss.  Are you the one creating bad relationships? For instance, if  instead of helping and building up employees who seem to ask the same questions all the time, you lose your patience and yell at them.  Bella references a recent article that points to bad bosses as being among the chief reason people leave their jobs.

But whether you or one of your employees is the bad apple, not addressing it can have consequences on your business.  It can affect morale if employees see you treating another employee badly or if you accept bad behavior from another.  If you allow a “bad apple” to stick around it takes the power away from you for running your business.  For instance,  if someone has a lot of job responsibilities and they develop a chip on their shoulder it could bring about a negative attitude that will multiply when you bring in others to start taking on some of that person’s responsibilities.

So when people have a “bad apple”, why don’t they take care of it right away? Fear.  They might be afraid that by getting rid of that person there is some service or benefit that person still supplies that they will lose.

Don’t Fear The Break Up Of The Bad Relationships:

It could be fear of retaliation or of getting sued.  For that fear Bella suggests that you have a good team of legal and HR professionals you use who can help guide you through the correct process.  She points out that fear is just not understanding information.  Bella says that if you have more information and knowledge you are more able to make better decisions in life.  Do not let fear hold you back!

There is also a fear of who you will get to replace the “bad apple”.  To that, Bella says always be hiring.  Even when you think you don’t really have the business to support a new hire, still consider it.  Because, if you find the right candidate and you have the right pricing structure and strategies in place, you can be instantly boosting business and getting the new person some work.

Another fear is that  of the unemployment rate going up.  Many business owners are afraid that the terminated employee will file for unemployment potentially causing their unemployment rate to go up.  Bella says, once again,  the best way to overcome that fear is to educate yourself.  Call up your state’s Department of Labor and find out what it would mean if the terminated employee filed. But, don’t be afraid to fire them even if your unemployment is going up.  Just compare that increase to what it may cost you by  maybe ticking off some of your best clients or missing out on opportunities or not having your sanity day to day.

Is It Really Them, Or You?

One final important point that Bella stresses is that once you realize that an employee is a “Bad Apple”, and you choose to keep them on staff, they are no longer the problem. You are!  You are the problem.  Holding on to “bad apples”, in addition to giving you headaches, will hold your business back from becoming everything you dreamed it would be.  You have every right to build the team you want, with great relationships, and people that work well with you!  

Just remember, you are going to get back what you give.  If you show people that you appreciate them and that you care, they will give that back to you tenfold.   But if you are constantly struggling with hiring and finding the right people for you business, or you are having trouble with people respecting your business, or there is a constant struggle with your team, you might just want to take a deep look inside yourself.  It’s just possible that you might just be the “bad apple”!

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Episode 15: How to Get Rid of the Fear of Delegation

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In this episode of “Bella In Your Business”, Bella is joined by Kate McQuillan from Pawsome Media. They dismantle the myths surrounding the fear of delegation in pet sitting businesses and discuss the profitable advantages of it.

Bella leads off by talking about her first delegation experience with the website Fancy Hands , a website that for a small fee will perform a few simple tasks for you. But she warns that your instructions need to be clear to ensure the task is done as you expect.  She says it’s like “the bootcamp for learning how to delegate.” Doing this, will decrease your fear of delegation.

Bella then talks about how she moved up to getting a virtual assistant (VA) and how with that she learned that prioritizing tasks for the VA  is key. She realized that she also needed to communicate how many hours she expected to be spent on the task as it better clarified the expectations and led to both her and the VA  feeling a sense of control over the task.  Kate pointed out that setting expectations on both sides is a very important step.

Kate then says that she feels that if you are going to delegate a task, make it one that needs to be repeated periodically. Doing so means that the time you spend setting up the expectations for the task the first time, will in essence, be training the assistant to do it in the future. As you set up expectations and outline the process for each task, you are essentially at the same time building an employee handbook. It becomes time well spent!

Kate also points out that you need to make sure you are putting a task in the hands of the right person. For instance, more complicated repetitive tasks are best done by someone like a VA who is consistently the same person, rather than using FancyHands or Fiverr ) where you may not be getting the same person each time.  Bella points out that mindless one-off tasks are better suited for those sites.

At this point Kate manages to blow Bella’s mind by suggesting that you have your VA document the process while they are doing the task. As Bella puts it, “Delegating the Delegation!”  

Bella then tells the listeners not to get discouraged when finding the right VA. She points out that just like hiring, sometimes a person does not work out.  Or, even when you find the right VA, they may have to leave for personal or family reasons.  She reinforces this by relating an experience she had. Kate adds that sometimes you or your needs change and that you should not be afraid to change your VA if things stop working out.

Bella mentions that some VAs can be more expensive than others but may bring a bigger skill set that can ultimately make you more productive.  She points out how critical a VA was in helping her organize and publish the first ever comprehensive chart of all the software companies in the pet sitting field. Kate says to think of it as an investment rather than a cost as it may help you and your business make more money.

Kate then discusses how one of the biggest hurdles people have in moving to delegating is the fear of letting go. They are afraid that someone else can’t do it as well as they can do it. She says rather than fear it, use it as an opportunity to examine and streamline the process.  You just may make it more efficient!

Kate mentions that one online tool she has found very helpful for delegation is Trello. It’s a free tool for putting up lists of tasks (which can be shared with others like your VA) and setting up a project timeline. Bella notes that visually it reminds her of Pinterest.

Since they have gotten on the topic of technology tools, Bella points out that most of us probably only use about 20% of the functionality of the tools we use. So she encourages the listeners to take the time to look at the tools website or seek out tutorials in order to really learn how to the get the most out of each tool!  Kate adds that she has tried to take the time this year to do just that.

Bella says that business owners should always make sure that their business is healthy and you always have enough money set aside to pour back into the business.  You can then use the “business” money to invest in these tools and processes that will ultimately help you grow your business.

They wrap up by stressing the importance of streamlining the processes and delegating the tasks. Kate also points out that there are some tasks, like contracts, that ABSOLUTELY should be delegated to the appropriate professionals, like lawyers. Bella agrees as she has had other business owners come and ask her for her service contract or her employee manual to use in their businesses, prompting her to ask “Do you want my underwear too?”  A perfect way to end an episode.

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Episode 14: Discount Daily Dog Walks

In this episode of “Bella In Your Business”, Bella discusses whether or not you should offer a discount daily dog walks. She covers points on both sides of the issue.

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Bella starts by stressing that before even considering a discount for daily dog walks, you really should know just how much profit you make off of a dog walk or pet visit. She points out that many company owners aren’t fully cognizant of that number or even understand how the costs and profits are divided. Bella points out that some of the money goes to the employee who walked the dog (usually a fixed amount) and some of that money should go to your business to cover expenses and business profit.  Finally, some money needs to go directly to you the owner, so that you are paying your salary.

 

Pricing-Guide - Discount Daily Dog Walks

Can You Even Afford it?

When offering a discount on a daily dog walk you have to decide out of which of these pots that discount will be taken.  You can’t really pay your employee less, so it will need to come out of either your pot or the business’.  If your business has stabilized costs, you may be able to find some money in the business pot to support the discount.  But if you are in a period of steadily increasing expenses, then you may not have it there.  Bella advises you to be careful about taking discounts out of your own pot as many business owners hurt themselves by not paying themselves enough to sustain themselves, and the business.

 

Discounting Can Be Good!

On the pro-discount side, Bella talks about how even “rich people” like discounts and

you should not be offended if someone asks you to discount daily dog walks.  

She even suggests that you set a higher “standard” rate and that the “discount” you offer be actually in the range of what you need to keep the business growing.  This could also be couched as a “Friends and Family” discount, or be given through package plans that encourage clients to use your services more often.

 

When You Should Never Discount

On the anti-discount side, Bella suggests that discounts on daily dog walks are not likely appropriate if your rates are currently low, especially if they barely cover costs.  In those cases, it is best to gradually increase your rates to a level where you can offer discounts.

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Episode 13: Should I Pet Sit for an Out of Control Dog?

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In this episode of “Bella In Your Business”, Bella discusses whether you should agree to pet sit for an out of control dog.  The discussion is based on a post from the discussion pages of her private Facebook group found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/jumpersnetwork/.

The writer of the post said that she had a “Meet and Greet” the previous night with an “out of control dog.” She said the dog was jumping on her and very unruly. It was putting its paws on her shoulders and its parents just seemed to dismiss the behavior.

out of control dog

Bella says that you as a pet sitter need to recognize that this situation could be a potential liability. First, for you individually, because this dog could cause you to injure yourself (like twisting your ankle) and that could result in your inability to serve your other clients. Doing so could even cost you your business.

This situation could also be a danger to your employees. If one of them gets injured not only is it a loss of a dependable member of your team, but it could open you up to liability.

Bella reminds you that as a pet sitter, it is not your job to train the dog and break bad habits.  In that type of situation, it may often be best to politely decline working with that dog. If you have a trainer you have a relationship with, use the opportunity to give a referral.

Bella also suggests that you ideally decline the job via email. This gives the parents a chance to absorb and digest your reasonings.  Those reasonings should include honesty about your concerns and how you feel you are not the best fit to serve that dog’s particular needs.

You can find more great information from Bella, additional podcast episodes, and  Bella’s blog at http://jumpconsulting.net/.

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Episode 12: Non-Owned Auto Liability Insurance

In this episode of “Bella In Your Business”, we are joined once again by David Pearsall, Vice President at Business Insurers of the Carolinas, which specializes in commercial insurance, including businesses providing pet services. David joins Bella for the second of many episodes dealing with insurance for those in the pet sitting industry. This episode focuses on Non-owned Car Insurance Coverage.

To start with, Bella asks what happens if she has an employee driving his/her own vehicle while doing pet sits and they get into an accident. David starts off by defining Non-Owned Auto Liability insurance. He says it’s usually a specialty endorsement to either a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) or a Commercial Auto Insurance Policy. Non-Owned Auto Liability policies cover any vehicle not owned by the business owner, but rather owned by the owner’s employees or other individuals who are using it in the course of business.

In Bella’s hypothetical situation, David points out that if the employee is sued as a result of the accident, the employee’s liability insurance will be the one initially used to provide for the plaintiff if the employee is found liable. But, if it is discovered that the employee was on business at the time of the accident, the plaintiff can also sue the business. This is where Non-Owned Auto Liability insurance can help.

David points out that these policies generally only cover employees and not independent contractors. He stresses that this is “excess” insurance and that in almost all cases the employee’s liability is considered “primary”. So this policy will not keep employees from being found liable or their insurance responsible. These would pay in excess of the employee’s insurance, which often has fairly low limits (often around $100,000).

Bella asks if there are different options and generally what are the limits they pay. David says there a couple of options but generally the limit is around $1 million.

According to David there are two ways to purchase Non-Owned Auto Liability insurance. The first, and preferred way, is to buy it through a Commercial Auto Policy. He points out that if you as a business owner have a vehicle in which you have stickers or logos or the name of your business on it, and your business is your primary source of income, you really should have a commercial auto policy anyway as personal auto policies aren’t really designed for that. And, you cannot add a Non-Owned Auto Liability endorsement to your personal liability insurance.

So Bella asks if a pet sitter has a magnet on their car have they just opened up their business to liability. David says that they have even without the magnet or sticker. If they are using the auto routinely for business, they really should have a commercial auto policy.

The second way to get a Non-Owned Auto Liability endorsement is through a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP). It is often available through one of the many options offered when you purchase a BOP.

Bella asks if this is similar to an umbrella policy. David says this is different. An umbrella policy goes over all of your other policies and gives excess coverage. Umbrellas are really for large claims and again, in addition to other existing policies. They then spend some time discussing the confusion around umbrella policies including how they don’t really cover special events either.

Bella then hits David with listener questions.The first question is from a listener who asks that if she wants Non-Owned Auto Liability insurance from David’s company, why does she have to change her personal liability insurance to his company as well.

David’s response is that they offer Association liability policies. But, that they also offer Business Owner’s Policies. So, she would not have to switch her personal liability insurance to get Non-Owned Auto Liability insurance if she did so through a BOP.  According to David, it all depends on what you are looking to cover in your business.

Bella asks a second listener question. The listener says she was told she should have Professional Liability insurance to cover things her General Liability will not. She found that Professional Liability from another company includes Non-Owned Auto Liability insurance, so why would she have to get Commercial Auto insurance from BIC (David’s company) when she can purchase that policy separately through others.

David explains that in his experience he has seen a great number of claims that ultimately are not covered under a Business Owner’s Policy, particularly if you are using independent contractors. Whereas the Association’s policy has it endorsed to automatically pick up independent contractors. It also covers many liability exposures that typical Professional Liability policies will not.

David explains that you cannot add Non-Owned Auto Liability insurance directly to an Association policy. So some clients buy both the Association policy and a Business Owner’s Policy to which they can add the Non-Owned Auto Liability insurance. Other’s buy the Association policy and a separate Commercial Auto policy to which to add the Non-Owned Auto Liability insurance.

David maintains that a Business Owner’s Policy may be a good fit for some and that there are a host of other policies you may need to think about like Employment Practices Liability insurance and Cyber Liability. So you need to talk to an agent and make sure you uncover what all your exposures are to find the best fit.

The third listener question asked whether discounts are offered on these specialty policies through the PSI Association. David says they are unable to offer discounts on these because many are offered by third-party insurance companies who do not offer discounts to the association.

In summary, Bella asserts, and David agrees, that if you have employees driving personal vehicles in the course of business, you need Non-Owned Auto Liability insurance. But, as always, have a long talk with David, one of his staff, or your own insurance agent to find the best policies for your exposures.

If you would like to contact David, he can be reached at 1-800-962-4611, ext. 214 or at an email address which is mentioned in the podcast.

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